Saturday, January 13, 2018

Long-Term Decline: Tallulah, Louisiana

Snyder Street, Tallulah, Louisiana
Snyder Street, Tallulah, Louisiana
Tallulah, the parish seat of Madison Parish, Louisiana, is a small town in northeast Louisiana just off Interstate 20. I remember going there about 25 years ago with some other photographers to take pictures. It was rather forlorn then, and is even rougher today. The main businesses are the parish government and the large state prison on Green Street, with agriculture in the surrounding farm fields.
220 Snyder Street, Tallulah, LA, Dec., 2016.
Snyder Street, facing the railroad tracks, was once the thriving commercial strip. Today, most of the store fronts are empty, and a couple of roofs have collapsed. Several times a day, a Kansas City Southern freight rumbles by, often with four locomotives pulling container carriers. This is the new global commerce that has left towns like Tallulah behind.
East Green street is also U.S. Highway 80, which runs east-west through town. A number of old commercial buildings are in various states of use and abandonment. Before the 1970s, U.S. 80 was the only major highway, and all through traffic drove right through town. But I-20 was routed south of town, and today, most travelers ignore the city unless they specifically have a need to pull off at the Tallulah exit (and many of them just go to the truck stops and then continue on the interstate).
The Madison Parish Court House was cheerful and crowded during the 2013 Teddy Bearfest. I wrote about the 2013 Teddy Bearfest in a previous article.
This is one of the many abandoned stores, this one on Chestnut Street, facing the courthouse.
East of town, Louisiana Route 602 takes a U-shaped path south of the interstate. It makes an excellent bicycle route as you pass farm fields, silos, and patches of woodland.
Former restaurant, 314 West Green St., Tallulah
Former teen center, 407 West Green St., Tallulah
Abandoned house, 522 West Green St. This structure is no longer extant.
Closed store, 800 West Green Street, Tallulah
Heading west on Green Street, which is U.S. 80, you pass some rather rough neighborhoods, then pass the prison, and eventually get to farmfields. The main attraction to the west is the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, which has a large resident bear population.

The rectangle black and white photographs are from a medium format Fuji GW690II camera with 90mm f/3.5 lens. The film was either Kodak Panatomic-X or Kodak Tri-X 400. I scanned the negatives on a Minolta Scan Multi film scanner using Silverfast Ai software.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ladies of Kathmandu (Nepal 2017-03)

Hanging around at Asan Chowk, Kathmandu. Photograph with Leica IIIC on Tmax 400 film.
At the Asan Chowk, October 2017.
Dear readers, I have examined (so to speak) the ladies of Kathmandu before. But I could not resist another survey in case they had changed since my 2011 trip.
Taking in the view at Asan Chowk, Kathmandu
The ladies in question are almost exclusively European (or Western). Many of them have poofy hair, as if they stepped in from the 1970s. Well, some parts of Kathmandu do look like the 1970s, although the rapid rebuilding after the terrible 2015 earthquakes is changing the city rapidly. For the subject of Kathmandu's lovelies, color photography really is more effective.
The roads near Chhetrapata and around Indra Chowk (square or intersection) are full of fabric and tailoring shops. This clustering of small industries is similar to what you see in many cities, like Athens. And to my untrained eye, the fashions look much alike, so I wonder how a customer chooses one shop over another?
To prove that I am an unbiased reviewer of fashions, here are the gentlemen of Kathmandu, all decked out in their latest dress. "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man," (Hamlet, William Shakespeare). In the top picture, I am not sure what the little kids are wearing; clothes for a wedding, perhaps?
Cloth vendor, near Chettrapati, Kathmandu (from Nexus 4 phone)
The two black and white photographs are from Kodak Tmax 400 film, exposed with a Leica IIIC camera with 50mm Summitar lens. The color frames are from Kodak Ektar 100 film, from a Yashica Electro 35CC compact rangefinder camera.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Doors of Nepal (Nepal 2017-02)

Gateway to house in Junbesi, Solu Khumbu district.
During my October 2017 trip to Nepal, I had not planned to do a series on doors, but I kept seeing these fascinating examples. Most were home-made in craftsman-built buildings, with interesting signs and paint patterns. I really like seeing what local workmen can assemble as opposed to the dull factory-made uniformity we have in more industrialized countries.
Hotel above Junbesi, Solu Khumbu.
Unused lodge at Phurtyang.
Hanging around in Phurtyang.
We stayed in the nice little Sherpa town of Junbesi for three nights and then walked to the town of Ringmu. These closed hotels/lodges were along the trail.
Numbur View Cheese Factory Lodge, Ringmu, Solu Khumbu
We stayed in the Numbur View in Ringmu for three nights. The lady who ran the lodge prepared the best food that we had in the Solu Khumbu. The accommodations were OK, the toilets pretty rough. She heated the dining room with wood in the evening, but by morning, it was cold. The hot water came from pipes that circulated behind the wood stove.
Shop at Taksindu Pass - more beer than cheese.
Maoist symbols, Taksindu Pass.
Taksindu Pass (Taksindu La) is at 3031 m (9940 ft) elevation, about two hours walk uphill from Ringmu. The pass gets significant tourist traffic because the traditional trekking trail from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp crosses Taksindu. Most tourists now fly into the town of Lukla further to the east and trek (stampede) to Base Camp from there. But some intrepid hikers still want to walk the traditional route, which can take three weeks, thereby getting acclimated along the way and sampling more of the local culture. On the return, they fly out of Lukla rather than walk all the way back to Kathmandu. When the American Everest expedition came through here in 1963, they had 900 porters to carry supplies.
Grocery/beer/cola store, Taksindu Pass. Note the leaning building.
The earthquakes of 2015 caused damage even here in the Solu region. In the photograph above, the building had been made of limestone blocks without mortar or a reinforced concrete frame. The cracks show how the building settled, and the door frame now really is a trapezoid.
Store near Taksindu Pass with Maoist posters.
The wise shopkeeper attaches posters extolling the Maoist regime, which, as of November 2017, was in power in Kathmandu.
Takgon Tharling Monastery
Takgon Tharling Monastery dormatory
The Taksindu Tharling Sheddrup Monastery, a short distance below Taksindu Pass, is an expansive complex of buildings and school dormatories. We hung a string of prayer flags for a friend who was injured shortly before our hike and could not join us.
Phera, Solu Khumbu, Nepal
On the trek back south to Phaplu, we passed Phera and more doors.
Shop near Phaplu, Solu Khumbu
Phaplu has an airport and road access, so it is bustling with tradesmen, shops, and guesthouses. And chickens.
Gateway to Siran Danda, Gorkha region, Nepal
Much further west in the Gorkha region of Nepal, we stayed in the town of Bhachchek at 1790 m elevation. A walk uphill took us to the tidy little town of Siran Danda and this welcoming doorway.
Siran Danda house and guard chicken.
Siran Danda had been partly rebuilt after the 2015 earthquakes with very neat houses, funded by a UK charity organization. The town's residents included a number of former English Army Gurkha soldiers, and they kept the place clean and orderly, like an army camp. There was no trash, the corn was hung in perfect rows, and the paint was fresh.
Siran Danda guesthouse.
We saw neat stacks of beer bottles like this in several towns. Eventually, a truck comes to take the bottles away to a bottling plant for reuse.
Hanging around in Anbu Khaireni
Back to the city via a brutal jeep ride down rough rutted roads with mudpits as deep as a jeep. A short stop in Anbu Khaireni on the Pokkhara highway for lunch and a change to a minivan was very welcome.
Royal Palace Ratnakar Mahavihar, Patan Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal
Finally, we returned to the big city. The spectacular golden door is in the Royal Palace in Patan. Patan is also known as Lalitpur city, one of the three ancient cities in the Kathmandu Valley. At one time, the three were separate, but now the urban sprawl has grown to form a large urban mess. Patan's Durbar Square is one of three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The palaces and temples in Patan Durbar Square, masterpieces of Newa architecture, were badly damaged in the 2015 earthquakes.

Most photographs are from Kodak Ektar 100 color negative film, exposed in a Yashica Electro 35CC rangefinder camera with Yashinon 35mm f/1.8 lens. I scanned the negatives with a Plustek 7600i film scanner. Four photographs are from a Nexus 4 phone.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Toilets of Nepal (Nepal 2017-01)

Dear Readers, let's end 2017 with a blast. Sorry I could not resist. Toilets or loos in rural Nepal are still a bit rough. But in the countryside, the buildings in which they are situated are often rather colorful. I should have photographed more of these little buildings, but there were so many interesting sights, I could not photograph everything. I can save this theme for my next trip (toilets of the world; outhouses of the world....).
Older toilet house at Takgon Sheddrub Tharling Monastery School, near Ringmu, Solu Khumbu region, Nepal. An aide group recently built a modern toilet and shower facility nearby. 
Shower and toilet facility at Numbur View Cheese Factory Lodge and Restaurant, Ringmu, Nepal.
Room with a view, as long as you are facing the squatty potty.  Chiwong Monastery, Chiwangteng, Solu Khumbu district, Nepal.
Hanging around in Junbesi: ready for scrubbing.
The first two photographs were taken with a Yashica Electro 35CC camera on Kodak Ektar 100 film. The squatty is from  a Nexus phone.

This is the start of a Nepal series. Standby for upcoming articles in 2018. Thank you, Readers.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Failing Quickly: the Susie B. Law House, Foote, Mississippi

Dear readers. in my last article, I was happy to report how a Victorian-era house in Vicksburg was finally being repaired and saved. But in the small town of Foote, along the shore of Lake Washington north of Glen Allen, the news is much worse. The Susie B. Law House on Lake Washington Road Eastside has deteriorated badly. Some of the roof shingles have fallen away, and in the wet and rainy climate of the Delta, roof leaks lead to rapid rot and deterioration of wood structures. I could already see some eaves rotting away.
Trees have fallen on the driveway and not been cleared away. Whoever owns the house had not obviously done any cleaning or repair in several years.
I wrote about the Law house in spring 2014. It was neglected then, but not as overgrown and was mostly intact. Also, back then, the roof was mostly intact. I fear the worst for this once-handsome example of a Sears Roebuck kit house.

Another piece of bad news for preservationists: just to the north, the brick walls of the once magnificent Italianate mansion known as Mount Holly sit unchanged and abandoned since the 2015 fire. Status: unknown.

The black and white 2014 photograph was taken on Panatomic-X film with a Fuji GW690II camera.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saved Victorian House: 916 Walnut Street, Vicksburg

Dear Readers, good news! This big 1890s-vintage Queen Anne-style house at 916 Walnut Street in Vicksburg is being renovated and repaired.
In past decades, the building was used as an Elks Lodge, but the organization left the building many years ago. For at least two years, periodically a condemnation notice from the City inspector was posted on the building, but afterwards the sign would be gone. Was the owner repairing the structure? It certainly did not look like any work was ongoing.

Finally, in October or November of 2017, serious renovation began. Vicksburg developer Daryl Hollingsworth (an energetic fellow - he also ran for mayor) bought the huge old house and set about stabilizing it and cleaning out interior debris. Mr. Hollingsworth generously showed me around and let me take pictures.
The house has been so abused over the decades, it is hard to tell how the rooms were used. Was this once the main parlor?
Night club wallpaper on the old plaster walls! Notice the wood lath. Mr. Hollingsworth said he will have the damaged areas replastered the right way (i.e., with plaster, not covered with sheetrock).
The stairs were oddly narrow for what was once a magnificent house.
Upstairs: more funky wallpaper and damaged walls that has been covered with cheesy paneling of the type you might see in a mobile home. That garbage paneling was popular in the 1970s and 1980s, even though everyone knew it was just plywood.
A beautiful fireplace with its original glazed tiles survived on the second floor. These were small fireplaces intended to burn coal on a metal pan. Vicksburg was a railroad town, so coal was readily available. The problem with coal was that embers sometimes went up the chimney and could land on the roofs of nearby houses. Resisting fire is a main reason that fireproof asbestos shingles were so popular in the early 20th century.
This well-lit room faces the north and west, with a view of the Yazoo Canal. This fireplace also survived semi-intact with its cast-iron trim cover, but only a few of the decorative tiles remain. The square hearth tiles are identical to the ones in my 1920s house.
Another place to explore: a narrow stair leads to the attic. Notice the lath on the walls where damaged plaster has been removed.
The attic has plenty of headroom. Originally, slate shingles would have been nailed to the dark wood horizontal boards that span the roof joists. I know the shingles were slate because the tower still has its slates (see photograph 2 above), while the rest of the house has been re-roofed. A friend on Baum Street had such a slate roof on his house - no roofing paper or decking, just slate tiles you could see from below. The slate lasts decades, but after a century or so, weathering takes its toll and the tiles begin to crack or get thin. Also, after a century, the the nails fail (when done the right way, slate and tile roofs must use copper nails - if your roofer tries to sell you galvanized nails, fire him). This house on Walnut was re-roofed, and new plywood decking was laid above the 1890 boards.
Some original doors had been stored in the attic. They can be cleaned and hopefully used in the rooms below.
Jackson Street view west towards the Yazoo Canal.
Let us take a quick look outside. This was once a fashionable neighborhood with other grand Queen Anne houses. The parking lot south of 916 Walnut (see photograph 1) almost surely had a house on it, but it has been gone for decades. When Vicksburg was platted, Jackson Street was envisioned to be the main east-west thoroughfare, the business center of the city. Therefore, it had a grand boulevard design, with a grass center strip. Commercial businesses instead developed along Clay Street, leaving Jackson Street relatively quiet, and, I assume, mostly residential. The upper part of Jackson Street still has its brick paving and grass median; very nice, but not much happens there now. Lower Jackson Street, joining Washington Street, has been covered with pavement and now looks like any other crummy tarred street.

In summary, it is welcome news that this house is being saved. Vicksburg has lost far too much of its historical architecture because of neglect, corruption, lack of imagination, and misguided "urban renewal."

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera, most with the Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 lens. All frames were tripod-mounted.